BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – When you’re being hit with one, there’s a sense of panic, and it feels like you’re never going to be able to do anything right again. When you’re on one, it’s almost euphoric, like the game slows down and all the finer details of the game suddenly come into focus.
Runs don’t just switch momentum in basketball games. They determine their outcomes.
On Wednesday night, the Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball team hit Annville-Cleona with a doozy of a run. The Vkings’ 21 unanswered points from the third period into the fourth proved crucial in their 56-42 victory over the Little Dutchmen.
The importance of the outcome was magnified by the fact that both local clubs are fighting for playoff standing and positioning.
The Vikes’ fifth win in their last six outings lifted them to 11-6 on the season and to 7-4 in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Annville-Cleona, which currently sits fourth in the District Three Class AA power rankings, dropped to 11-6 overall and 6-5 in Section Four of the L-L.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ken Battistelli of runs. “When you’re on the bad side of one, it feels like there’s an avalanche falling on your head. It seems like you’re pushing all the wrong buttons. When it’s going good, you can’t have more fun than that.”
“It’s frustrating, especially when you know how they (her players) played in the second quarter,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Jamie Podjed. “Basketball is a game of runs. You’ve got to be able to roll with it, get it back and slow it down. Defensively, we have to pick it up and offensively we’ve got to slow it down.”
Part of what made NL’s 21-0 run critical was the fact that it trumped an earlier outbust with which A-C established a ten-point cushion. The Vikings’ spurt began with Emily Brandt knocking down a jumper 1:24 into the second half and ended with Taylor Smith converting an inside move with 5:20 remaining.
In between, the Vikings played a clamp-down man-to-man defense and Brandt took control of the game with her scoring, ballhandling and passing. ‘The Run’ turned Northern Lebanon’s eight-point deficit into a 42-29 lead.
“We just kept scoring and holding them on defense,” said Battistelli. “I’ve been coaching girls for a little while now, and very rarely can I change the intensity level once it’s started. At halftime, I really got on them and challenged them, some individually. Offensively, we talked about every single player stepping up. Make or miss, I want our kids to want to score. In the second half, it was like we lit a fire.
“We’ve been busting our butts to get into a playoff race,” Battistelli continued. “I didn’t want us to mess it up by being lazy. We realize we’re two games behind in the section and one game ahead of the third-place team. Every game could be the difference in making it (to the playoffs) or not. So you can’t afford to stumble.”
“Brandt adjusted,” said Podjed of the Vikings’ junior point person. “She was fired up in the second half. She’s a nice player. We’d step up on her, but we didn’t have help for the helper. We weren’t collapsing to the basket.
“We’re not playing as well as we had been,” continued Podjed. “We haven’t played well since the Lebanon Catholic game. It’s a tough stretch of schedule. And being down Tori (Siebecker), we don’t have a lot of girls to fill in. We have all of our section games left. We’ve got to be able to go forward.”
Brandt tallied a game-high 18 points, and she was backed up by Lessing’s 12. Annville-Cleona got 13 points from Alex Siebecker, 12 from Kayla Parks and 11 from Elaina Wanamaker, but not much from anyone else.
Little Dutchmen leading scorer Tori Siebecker was limited to four points. Siebecker, who now needs 15 point to surpass the 1,000-point plateau for her career, was playing her first game in two weeks, after being sidelined by a broken pinky finger on her shooting hand.
“It has been a good season, but I don’t ever want to answer that question,” said Battistelli when asked if he expected to have this much success this season. “We’re in a race. Tomorrow (Friday night) we’re going to grind out Garden Spot. We’ve done nothing good and nothing bad at this point. I don’t want anyone to tell them (his players) they’ve accomplished anthing.
“Annville-Cleona is so dynamic,” Battistelli added. “The thing that makes them so hard is four kids can play good defense but their fifth player will stick a three-pointer on you. All the scouting report says is, ‘Can shoot a three.’ They’re a nightmare. Unless we just don’t know how to play against them.”
“Her hand still looks pretty bad,” said Podjed of Tori Siebecker. “But she did what she could. It’s on her shooting hand and she hasn’t played in the last four games. She’s tough and she wants to play. But it’s tough to play with a broken bone on your shooting hand.
“It’s a county rival and you always like to play against them,” added Podjed. “Just for our section, it means a lot. There’s also districts and the power rankings. We won the game against them in our holiday tournament, so you knew they were going to come out hard. That’s (Northern Lebanon) a good team.”
When Brandt nailed a trey with 2:39 of the opening stanza left it gave Northern Lebanon a 12-7 lead. But during a five-minute stretch before intermission, Annville-Cleona out played Northern Lebanon and outscored it 11-0 to take a 27-17 advantage.
“We played, I thought, very laissez faire in the first half,” said Battistelli. “We were looking for other people to get the job done. I thought defensively we were guessing. They (the Little Dutchmen) carved us up pretty good earlier in the season. They (his players) didn’t start with intensity.
“Offensively, nobody was being confident and aggressive,” continued Battistelli. “Sometimes we look at Emily (Brandt) too much. And Emily wasn’t being as aggressive and physical and she can be. Defensively, we didn’t have enough fire. You can’t play defense with half of your heart.”
“We played a good end of the first quarter and a good second quarter,” said Podjed. “But we got away from that in the second half. They made a run, and that happens in basketball. We were trying to make one pass and go one-on-one.
“We were executing our offense (in the first half),” added Podjed. “There was one play we ran where all five of us touched the ball. We were making the extra pass and making them work on defense. And because we wore them out, we were getting some transition baskets. In the third quarter, we didn’t make them work on defense.”